My son calls me the “Media Nazi” because I limit his screen time with computers, television, any visually stimulating images on a screen. Well, I did more often before he became a full fledged teenager with computer science aspirations who is now attending High School via Florida Virtual School Full Time. (That decision is a whole different conversation.) Ok, OK, OKAY ! I have to admit, virtual school has brought out a new enthusiasm for learning and completing his schooling independently and better than many of his public school years. Two years ago, I never would have believed it would be so.
Honestly, I am older than I look, and had children later in life, so I am kind of “old school” have a lot of preconceived notions, based on personal experience and bits of knowledge picked up through research over the years. My preset notion has been that too much passive “media” time is not good for the developing brain, and that children benefit most from interaction with others and the real world, real books, real people, a variety of textures from nature to explore. I still believe that real is best. There is no app that can give you the same experience as walking, running, and playing in real sand with the sound and smell of waves that are lapping up on the shores. But alas, I do not live on a beach, so it is not handy for everyday life.
The tide of the digital wave is rising quickly, pushing itself more and more into our daily lives. If a parent is unprepared, uninformed, and watching to see which waves present themselves, it is more likely to be programs that our young children are not ready for, as far as content, or to meet the child’s needs and abilities. Children WILL find their own, usually through friends who may not have proper guidance from their parents.
As a good mom, and childhood specialist, I must dust off my boogie board and surf the net in search of an expanded view, not only specific programs, but how to determine good programs and how to use them. Well, as usual… continued research tends to shed light on new options and opportunities. And there are some good resources that break down the newest research for us.
I will provide the links and let those who are interested read all the fine print. But when the dust settles, it comes down to one main fact.
When technology is used as a tool to engage a child,
in coordination with personal interaction,
the digital options available can promote quality discussions,
interpersonal activities, and expanding connections with the real world.
Just like a good book, a physical game, or a classical recording, we use technology as TOOLs to ENGAGE our children in a learning process. It most certainly catches their attention ! Technology takes “variety in unity” to a whole new level. That’s how our brain learns best, when there is consistency and familiarity with how something works (like the computer, smart phone, or tablet), our brain feels comfortable and confident, and ready to take in new information. All the programs and apps provide a wonderful of variety of new experiences. creating new pathways in our brain.
It is up to us as parents to choose the technology TOOLs that are best for our children, both in usability and accessibility in the type of device, as well as the programs and apps that provide just the right content and interactive nature. What do we want our children to be thinking about? Which skills do we want to encourage them to build? What information and connections do we want them to be processing, and even perhaps… obsessing over. As you know, when a particular skill or interest catches a young child’s attention – it is like their mind is glued to it, and it is difficult to get them to think of anything else. Although sometimes this obsession can be annoying, we can use this to their benefit, by providing opportunities for positive repetition and expanding on what they know. More on that later.
Obviously touch screen devices are easiest for young children to learn to control. but this ease may make it frustrating when the rest of the world does NOT work that way. For example, there is a video of a baby that is frustrated because the paper magazine does not work with a touch and a swipe. Of course, using a well balanced combination of both digital devices and real world objects will help the child be confident with both forms of learning.
Hearing from Kindermusik and Experts about Screen Time
Kindermusik believes, alongside NAEYC, the Fred Rogers Center, Erikson Graduate School for Child Development, and many other early childhood organizations and professionals, that
the purpose of any early childhood learning tool should be interaction and relationship between adult and child, whether digital or physical.
Lisa Guernsey, author of Screen Time: How Electronic Media Affects Your Young Child, suggests we consider content, context, and the individual child in order to make wise choices about technology.
What Kindermusik provides parents are educational resources that are developmentally appropriate and promote parent/child engagement, on and off the screen. Kindermusik and educators are in a position to help parents understand how to best use technology to create optimal learning experiences at home through the week.
YES, Kindermusik International Inc.,
the innovative leader in early childhood music and development materials and curriculum for over 30 years,
is now developing and offering Digital Home Materials to accompany our class curriculum.
As always, their development is guided by continuing research into the best learning experiences for children.
Special attention to these goals guides the creation of content, context, and ability to adapt it for the individual child.
Kindermusik International has created several apps for iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch, that are accessible to everyone – whether in Kindermusik or not. There is a Kindermusik Radio station, as well as 20 eBooks for children. Just search Kindermusik in the app store. And you can read more about them in my other article.
For the Digital Home Materials that are integrated with the Kindermusik class activities, KI chose to use a web-based format that is usable by anyone with a device that has internet connection – such as a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or smart phone of any make or model. The types of options available in these Digital Home Materials will be described in another article I am working on. In addition to these online materials, parents may also choose to download and print, or purchase the monthly book and purchase child safe instruments to add real world elements.
I’ve been extensively looking at all the Digital Home Materials developed for each age group. These are NOT created to give to children to play with independently to occupy them. They are created with delightful videos, graphics and tools to enable parents and children to enjoy together, talking about what they see, making choices, and connecting it to the concepts that are initiated by the activities in class. This reflects the Fred Rogers Center motto, “Every new technology is an opportunity for learning.”
Kindermusik is creating the right kind of Digital Waves for our young children. I’m learning to balance on these new waves, and only sometimes get daunted by the process (I am an old fuddy duddy and fairly new at this). But when you catch the right wave just right… then the ride, and the results with you and your child, can be amazing… and sooooo much fun !
Please share if you know of some other good “digital waves” for young children.
Follow these links for more in depth detail into some of the resources of this research. And PLEASE SHARE if you are familiar with further research, or opinions, on this topic.
Key messages about Technology from NAEYC and Fred Rogers Center
Perspectives from the Erikson TEC (Technology in Early Childhood) Center
Chip Donahue, Erikson Graduate School of Childhood Development, Shares His Experience and Wisdom
Fred Rogers Center Utilizes Technology for Learning
“Every New Technology is an Opportunity for Learning”
Lisa Guernsey Considers Content, Context and Your Child in Evaluating Technology